Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mary Halvorson Octet - Away With You (Firehouse 12, 2016)

Away With You is the first recording of guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson’s new octet, which features John Hebert on bass, Ches Smith on drums, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jon Iragabon on alto saxophone, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor saxophone, Jacob Garchik on trombone and Susan Alcorn on pedal steel guitar. This new band looks to develop a large ensemble sound from the jazz tradition, while also experimenting and communicating on a very high level. “Away With You (No. 55) has fast beats and guitar coming on strong with ripe horns filling in and making for an impressive combination. Mysterious notes of guitar weave through the music, making for an alluring sound pallette. The music drops down slightly with shards of guitar and swirling horns and then there is a fine section of collective improvisation and percussion soloing. Smears of sustained guitar in open space come out unaccompanied before subtle bass and drums join in on “The Absolute Almost (No. 52). Bowed bass and brushed percussion add to the atmosphere too, then suddenly at the halfway point the music cracks open and bright sounding horns emerge, which swoop and sway over bleats of guitar and strong bass and drums. There is a ripe and exciting saxophone solo with strong drumming making for a powerful combination as the music reaches its frenetic peak. “Sword Barrel (No. 58)” has gentler guitar bass and drums, lullaby like, with lush horns building in. The music gets pleasantly disjointed and moves down the rabbit hole to the realm of psychedelic free jazz. “Old King Misfit (No. 57) has a hard strumming bass intro, building to an epic bass solo before band moves in with a thick sounding horn volley leading the way. The intensity of the overall music begins to develop a brash full band section. Raw horns and bass create a deeply dug foundation for the music on “Fog Bank (No. 56),” as mournful trumpet weaves through the music, which has a sombre tinge. Streaks of electric guitar and brushes extend the feel of unease. Long tones of horns lead the music slowly forward in an unhurried manner to the conclusion. A jaunty beginning for guitar, bass and drums begins “Safety Orange (No. 59) and the horns evoke a pleasant fanfare. The music has a fine improvised section that develops a wade range of flavors, Mary’s guitar crawls like a spider making a spindly web across the surface of the music. The brass gives off a golden tone while soloing, and the other instruments fall in with tight support. “Inky Ribbons (No. 53) features lush horns which develop the music unhurriedly, moving in tandem, giving the music a suspended feeling. Guitar slowly sidles up and brings in slow and ponderous bass and drums. The full band fills in for a well developed sound, and becomes a powerful edifice, pushing itself forward. A saxophone breaks out for a thoughtful solo, thriving in the open ended environment, before the guitars come together to intertwine and the trombone seals the deal. The band has grown steadily from recording to recording, guided by Mary Halvorson’s instincts and her development as a composer and arranger. The rhythms mirror the band’s sound, slightly off kilter, yet subtle and strongly pulsed and always interesting. Away With You -

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